Friday, July 26, 2013

Sunday Classics preview: A Leon Fleisher postscript


Leon Fleisher plays a piece we've heard a lot (most recently endorsed by mezzo Susan Graham!),"Clair de lune" ("Moonlight") from Debussy's Suite bergamasque, from this July 1956 Epic Debussy-Ravel LP.

by Ken

No, no, Fleisher hasn't died -- at least not that I know. What I mean in the post title is a "postscript" to last week's post, in which we did a sort of hare-and-tortoise journey, "Adding Schubert's mighty Wanderer to our roster of musical fantasies," with the then-35-year-old Leon Fleisher as our "hare" and the ripely matured 78-year-old Arthur Rubinstein as our "tortoise."

I mentioned last week that Sony Classical has just put out a Complete Album Collection with little CD reproductions of all of Fleisher's LPs as well as CDs for Sony and its predecessor labels, Columbia Masterworks and Epic. And I mentioned that I was watching the mailbox for my copy.

It arrived Tuesday, by which time I had finished tinkering with Sunday's post. (If you haven't looked at it since last Sunday, you might want to take another peek.) In playing with the set, I was startled to realize that the 1963 record we were drawing on, a coupling of the Wanderer Fantasy with Schubert's A major Sonata, D. 664 was the last "normal" record Fleisher made at the eight-year mark of his association with Columbia and Epic. It wasn't planned that way, of course. But the loss of his use of his right hand put an end to that part of his career.

I was reminded too that Fleisher had begun his association with Columbia with an earlier Schubert LP, containing perhaps the grandest of the three immensely scaled breakthrough piano sonatas that turned out to be the composer's last, coupled with eight of the 12 tiny German dances of D. 790. (Until now the Ländler we've heard have mostly been the souped-up ones from Mahler's First and Ninth Symphonies -- see the December 2012 preview post "Do I hear a Ländler?")

SCHUBERT: Ländler (12), D. 790:
No. 1 in D [1:11]
No. 3 in D [0:34]
No. 4 in D [0:33]
No. 5 in B minor [1:07]
No. 6 in G-sharp minor [0:42]
No. 7 in A-flat [0:59]
No. 8 in A-flat minor [1:15]
No. 11 in A-flat [0:53]

Leon Fleisher, piano. Columbia-Sony, recorded July 27-39, 1954, and May 4, 1955


We're going to  hear some fairly random excerpts from the Fleisher box, including (I'm thinking) the whole of the Suite bergamasque.


For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."

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